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Russia No. 4 on Billionaire List

Published: March 4, 2003 (Issue # 848)



  • Khodorkovsky
    Photo: The St. Petersburg Times

MOSCOW - Russia's per capita GDP may be dragging behind Costa Rica's, but its head count of billionaires is the fourth highest in the world, according to Forbes magazine's annual rating of the super rich, released late last week.

The list of the country's billionaires burgeoned to 17 over the past year - 10 more than in 2002 - thanks to high oil prices, a growing stock market and greater corporate transparency.

For a second year in a row, Russia's richest men have managed to buck the trend of shrinking fortunes. Worldwide, the number of billionaires year on year fell from 497 to 476 and their combined wealth from $1.54 trillion to $1.4 trillion. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, steadily No. 1 on the Forbes list since 1998, ended up $12.1 billion poorer than the year before, his worth dropping to $40.7 billion.

All but five of Russia's billionaires are heavily involved in the oil sector.

The strongest showing was by Yukos, whose top executive Mikhail Khodorkovsky retained his title as Russia's richest man and shot up from his No. 101 spot last year to No. 26. Khodorkovsky's estimated worth more than doubled - from $3.7 billion to $8 billion.

Of the 10 new tycoons on this year's list, five earned their riches at Yukos or affiliated banking and insurance conglomerate Menatep.

Khodorkovsky, who says that he owns 6 percent to 7 percent of the company, attributed the jump in his fortune to Yukos' growing capitalization.

"These are the same shares of the same company," Interfax quoted him as saying.

"The fact that it is becoming worth more means that our work has been a success. The fact that a lot of oil executives made it onto the list means that our oil sector is the most public and open. I think that my fellow businessmen from other sectors still have the journey toward financial transparency ahead of them."

Stephen O'Sullivan, head of research at United Financial Group, said that one big reason for the rising number of Russian billionaires is greater disclosure.

"Most people have taken the view that Mr. Khodorkovsky owns Yukos and now we know that he does. But many other people have large stakes as well," O'Sullivan said Friday. "People we didn't know about last year, we now know about."

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Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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